“Whenever there’s been a disaster, in re-forming the pieces one does have the opportunity to make the world better.”

Revolution

After reading this blog, my daughter (for this is she) complained that it lacks characterisation. So I’ll just add that she was munching on Marmite and toast while formulating these deep thoughts, and that, as she talked, her slender fingers – adorned with hand-crafted gold and silver rings – wafted like pink-tipped ribbons in the wind…

Imani’s Story

“I think I feel quite different after lockdown. I feel more grounded – within this place, the village – like I haven’t really felt before. 

I was very glad that I live in the countryside. I think Dorset is particularly beautiful, and it was really nice to go on long walks – having that sense of knowing what the paths are; finding a wood of bluebells; seeing real beauty – where otherwise you might just have been moving too fast. 

However, I don’t think lockdown meant a whole lot to me, personally. Whenever I think about its implications I think more about the world at large; what other people will have experienced – like I always think of those people walking out of Delhi. And it’s made me see, really clearly, the inequalities in the world.

I did see them before, but lockdown made me see the way that climate change will massively affect some people. This is like a precursor to what’s coming. The pandemic has also really shown the inability of many world leaders, and the fact that we need leaders with heart and brain. 

On the flipside, I’ve seen Covid as giving the world an opportunity; because I think it’s revealed a lot of the things we need to overcome with climate crisis. For instance, strengthened community and having a sense of place is really important. Appreciating the plants around you, the space around you; and it’s shown that we can happily live in a smaller sphere. 

So I see it as a chance; but also as something that’s looming and dooming.

Probably spending time with my family was my highlight, it was really nice being here with my brother, Jai. I’ve realised that I probably won’t spend this much time at home ever again. It was good how well we all got on and that we didn’t have any arguments – not because of the ‘cleaning rota’ but because we were lucky enough to have space. 

But the months were also weird, because I was very aware that it wasn’t nice, per se; like I didn’t know how long it was going to go on for and I found it hard to really enjoy it because I knew that a lot of other people were stuck in small flats or in tower blocks, and that’s no fun at all. 

Then again, I was weirdly aware that I would miss the time when it passed. I think it’s because there was no stress to do anything; which many people of my age haven’t experienced. No fomo – fear of missing out – because everyone was doing exactly the same thing: which was nothing. There was the mental leveller of being able to take your foot off the gas. But then for me it was still conflicted because I was like, ‘But I should be writing a book…’

I definitely went through a few weeks in the middle when I just wanted to sleep through the day. Coz I woke up and I was like, ‘What on earth am I getting up for? Today’s exactly the same as yesterday.’ It also didn’t help that I didn’t like the degree I was doing (I’ve since switched). I just couldn’t see the point of writing essays on Shakespeare when there was a pandemic going on. 

My lowest low was everything that happened to my dad and his CEO, Steve. Steve went into hospital with Covid; seemingly completely not at risk, fit and healthy. He was in the ICU for a month, and he fought very hard, but he died. 

I worry about Dad, knowing how much it’s affected him. Sitting with him on the garden swing, seeing him really taken over by grief – and feeling that grief through him – because if you love someone you feel it too. He looked so vulnerable. 

I don’t know many people who know someone personally who’s died. When you do, and you see the repercussions of that throughout a business, its people, Steve’s family and Dad, then all the figures on the screen, well, it’s not just 40,000 people, it’s multiple, multiple families and their grief. 

Imani with Paul and Jai

It definitely made me think that it could have been Dad. And that again was why the time was so weird. Because we’d eat really nice dinners and we’d have a really nice time, but then you’re really aware that you don’t know how bad it’s going to get; you don’t know how it’s going to affect you; what the implications moving forward will be for jobs and livelihoods. So there was this weird, like, everything feels fine in this nice bubble of Piddlehinton, but I could never fully enjoy that bubble because I was so aware that it was one.

I had very weird dreams during lockdown. Now I’m watching the news every day, wondering what the Government’s saying, what are the numbers saying, trying to predict what’s going to happen. It just plunges you into such uncertainty. Which you can try and be all philosophical about, be like, ‘Well it’s very good to live in the moment’, but it’s hard when you literally can’t plan, three weeks ahead. 

I have absolutely no idea how the world will be, coming out of it. I don’t think anyone has. Looking at the news, we always want experts and assume that someone knows better and knows what to do. And with that comes blame culture: for instance, blaming the government that we didn’t lock down soon enough. 

But when you listen to scientists talk, there was so much uncertainty, so little data, so little known about the virus, so actually calling what to do was really complicated. And, in the same respect, knowing how we’re going to come out of this… no-one can predict it. No-one knows what will happen to the economy. Will there be another virus? It’s just complete uncertainty. And I wish there’d be more people who’d appreciate that and not always be looking to blame. 

I know that ‘youth’ are also now being blamed to some extent, which is ridiculous. It’s crazy to blame such a broad spectrum, and it’s only being said because cases have risen within young people. But then ‘youth’ are probably blaming older generations, questioning why we’re being locked indoors when it’s not actually massively going to affect us, really, statistically, but what will affect us is being indoors for our twenties. 

There’s blame culture all over the place and I take issue with it. If you’re gonna blame, blame very specifically the things that have actually gone wrong, otherwise it’s not productive and it’s really not helpful.

Of course I’m worried that the economy will tank, and also that, like after 2008, instead of re-engaging with a green economy (more green jobs) industry will just get dirtier and the dirtiest industries will be bailed out again. 

Because this will mean we’ve had our window of opportunity and won’t have used it. 

You see, we’ve been made to stop – we’ve been shown that we can make decisions bigger than the economy. Whenever there’s been a disaster, in re-forming the pieces one does have the opportunity to make the world better. Because the pieces as they were weren’t good, and were sending us in a very bad direction. But I worry that if it comes closer to survival or destitution (am I going to lose my house, my job?), will this mean there’s even less chance of people caring about the environment.

I think a lot about having kids, but my decisions will be based on carbon emissions – and I don’t think anyone in the past has ever had to consider that. Also, I think it will be too late if it’s left up to my generation to sort things out – unless there’s really good carbon-capture technology, but I’m not really holding out for it. 

Imani helping out at work, many years ago

Am I cross with the people in power? For sure. I’m most cross with everyone in the oil and gas industry, who knew exactly what was going to happen and who just set out to lobby and buy politicians and literally dig their profits out of everyone else’s graves.  I think that they should go to prison, because I think it’s the biggest human rights abuse.

Of course environment is the thing that should worry everyone the most. But I think that when many think about it they think about trees dying, but it’s so existential and backlights all other problems that we have. 

And it will create problems that we can’t even anticipate. 

Like, everyone is hugely worried about the refugee crisis, but if Bangladesh goes under water – and other countries – there’ll just be millions and millions of climate refugees. Everyone’s worried now about viruses and pandemics – but if the perma-frost keeps melting then more bacteria and pathogens will be released and there’ll be even worse pandemics. People are also worried about the economy – but if we’re having to bail out cities because of hurricanes, what will that do? Everything that everyone’s worried about: the climate makes it all a million times worse. 

I sometimes wish I was someone who didn’t think about everything so deeply. I think ignorance is definitely bliss. I think about the time that I became aware of climate change and I was like, ‘I’ll recycle and stop buying fast fashion’ and now… 

After you swallow that pill of information, like, that’s it. But then again, I think it would be worse, to not know, I guess. 

And I do feel that we’re really lucky. I’d thought quite a lot about pandemics and how likely they were. Which is why I never watched the film Contagion, because I was like, no that’s gonna happen. And yes, we’re in one, but it’s not the Black Death and the mortality rate isn’t as high as Ebola. I think that as practice-runs go – because there will be more pandemics – we’ve been lucky.

Of course, we’ve all been affected. But considering what it could have been… 

A good thing is that Covid’s made me feel like I don’t need to move as fast. A lot of people I know think this. We’re always chasing, chasing and it’s made me think why? Why am I chasing? I think it would be weird if you hadn’t re-evaluated everything – surely it’s made everyone do that?

But then we’ll probably forget. I think there’s already social amnesia going on. I don’t think we’re very good at learning our deep lessons, you know. We had one world war and then a few years later there was another. 

Of course there have been some significant historical developments, and I’m an optimist and hope that racial politics will continue to go forward; not backwards or stagnate. 

The village’s BLM march was really nice. It showed the rural side of England as being a bit different and it felt good, knowing that such things could seep into a sleepy hamlet. 

Photo by Holly Stead

To be honest, however, when everything was really kicking off with BLM I kept thinking, ‘I’m not white, I’m not black, I’m mixed-race, but everyone’s mixed race’. I felt completely without identity. My friends were all messaging me, so I was like, clearly they assume I know more – which I do, but only because I’ve read all the books. I’d done my whole, ‘Oh shit, I’ve been really miseducated massively’ the year before. 

I don’t have any black community or culture in my life, so I don’t feel like I really have a claim. Intellectually I understand and can empathise completely with what’s going on. But yes, I definitely felt really weird in that period. I was doing a lot of explaining things to people (and Jai was too). I don’t find it tiring because I don’t ever receive micro-aggressions. I don’t feel that my race or my gender affect me so don’t have the emotional baggage that I know a lot of people do. And, of course, for those people they shouldn’t always be having to give all the answers. But I quite enjoy explaining things to people. 

Leaflets Imani made for the demo

I also enjoy having curly hair. It gives you a different perspective. Growing up, upon reflection I was always aware that things weren’t quite as they seemed. I realised that there was no curly hair anywhere in the media and that any person of colour who was seen as successful had straight hair. So, knowing that society at large was telling me there was something wrong with this feature of myself was partly what gave me this deep-rooted unease and awareness. 

When I put the intellectual framework onto it, it was quite satisfying to go, ‘Oh, that’s why I felt like this’ and ‘This is what it means’. But then again, I’ve always felt very part of British culture – and Dorset. I’ve never felt ‘othered’ – apart from when I’ve felt fetishized (from a dating point of view) for being mixed-race.

Prior to lockdown I was aware that community would be a nice thing, but I didn’t feel like I had one particularly. During lockdown it was lovely seeing people helping each other out, although personally I didn’t have a lot of free time as I was still doing my degree.

I have a lot of sympathy for educational institutions, because I think it’s really hard to know what to do. I think that my uni communicated with us pretty well. But what did annoy me – and again, I think about this sense of us never being able to have the perspective to just stop and think – was like when they were, ‘You’re still going to hand in an essay a week and it’s still going to be high quality.’ There was never a, like, ‘Don’t worry, it’s a really weird time, we’re going through a pandemic and we understand if you’re pretty stressed and anxious and your work’s not up to par’. We never got that message, which I just think is really surreal. 

Last term I didn’t feel I missed out hugely academically, but this term, if everything goes on line and I still have to pay full tuition fees, I think that’s ridiculous. I think no other company would be like, here’s half a product, still give us all the money. I think that universities definitely just use students like a cash cow. 

I was very glad to have a boyfriend during lockdown – although it was hard that I couldn’t see him. I think probably the hardest thing for young people is wondering, ‘Am I ever going to have sex again?’ A lot of my friends have said that. Going back to Uni and not being able to go back into other rooms? I’d just like to know what the college’s policy will be. Like, will we be having sex in our beds, or on Midsummer Common? 

Imani and Saul

I think that we will be changed as a generation by this, but again I can’t say how. One hopes in a good way – or we get very bitter because no-one can get jobs after they graduate. Potentially it’s a good thing if people really don’t trust in the systems any more; because the systems weren’t serving people anyway.

But it’s all very bitter sweet, isn’t it? When you get a wake-up call to your life and you open your eyes and everything looks different. In a way you can see things way more clearly for what they are and you’re not being distracted by things that – when you come to your deathbed – you’re not gonna care about. But it’s still very bitter sweet, that it’s a pandemic that’s caused it.”

One thought on ““Whenever there’s been a disaster, in re-forming the pieces one does have the opportunity to make the world better.”

  1. I felt quite humbled when I read Imani’s story. What incredible insight into the world’s problems and so beautifully told Jess. You must be so proud. Having only sons who do not readily articulate their emotions this was a real eye opener and clearly written from a very deep heart.Thank you for sharing your innermost thoughts Imani. All these cameos of some of our villagers lead to greater understanding and tolerance of the diversity of the human race.
    Piddlehinton is certainly rich in strong characters.

    Like

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